Democracy is an experiment, a project that at its best seeks a higher and ethical human intelligence.
No one who for decades has been a keen student of human societies, including Kenya, can claim to have a glimpse of eternity, a final resting place on the summit of history.
All we can do is to think and argue together in good faith if we hope to give our people the best chance of realizing their human potential. It is in this regard that I opine on the BBI report – Building Bridges to a united Kenya: From a nation of blood ties to a nation of ideals. I want you to think with me about Kenya as an idea, not just as a geographic location on the planet, or a ramshackle collection of disparate peoples.
No constitution is perfect. Even the national charters of the most advanced democracies are deeply flawed. The American constitution, arguably one of the world’s most enduring constitutions, has been amended 27 times. The United States is 244 years old and we can all plainly see the serious problems convulsing it even with one of the longest histories with constitutional political democracy.
In contrast, Kenya is only 56 years old. Unfortunately for Kenya, our elites selfishly and maliciously amended the country’s 1963 independence constitution to aggrandize their power and oppress citizens. I cannot think of a single justifiable amendment, except the one in 1964 to make Kenya a republic.
That is why Kenyans have a healthy skepticism about constitutional revisions. It is why Kenyans fought so hard to get that mutilated constitution and replace it with the 2010 constitution.
It is a fact that the 2010 constitution is one of the most progressive national charters in the world. However, it was a political compromise. Making constitutions is akin to making sausage – the process is messy and unappetizing. The outcome may look good on the outside, but the devil is what is inside.
We should be honest that the 2010 constitution has many lacunae and flaws. These constitutional defects and “silences” continue to bedevil us. That is why implementing it has been so elusive and challenging. That is not the only problem. The far greater catastrophe is the inability of our elites to intellectually and culturally submit themselves to the values and tenets of liberalism on which political democracy and modern constitutionalism are built.
Constitutions are living documents into which the elites and the people must breathe life. For that to happen, constitutions must have basic cultural and normative legitimacy in the society in which they are planted, or they will be stillborn. That is what happened to the 1963 Constitution.
An elite that did not own it, or believe in it, killed it. Nor did the people rise up and fight to protect it. Which brings me to the 2010 constitution. It is clear to me there are parts of the 2010 Constitution that both the elite and the people do not fully own.
That is why the elite has flouted parts of it with the acquiescence of the public. We have not domiciled the 2010 constitution. We are all – every single one of us – to blame for this failure. If we must rise, we must do so together as a nation.
As they say, we must hang together, or we shall surely hang separately. We need an honest conversation about our failure to fully accept the constitution and the idea of constitutionalism, and what we can, and must, do about it as a country.
I do not want to reprise here the history of BBI and how the initiative came about. That story has been told. Suffice it to note that we are here now. The rest is water under the bridge. What I know is that the so-called Handshake gave the country a reprieve and an opportunity to take stock. There are as many of our compatriots who welcomed it as have spurned it.
The schism threatens to tear the country apart because of the competing ambitions of politicians and their supporters. Let us not pour gasoline on the embers of hatred and greed for power. We must avoid this at all costs.
My plea is that no matter what side of the ledger we fall we have a civil conversation about the BBI report and either adopt or reject, it. Life must go on whatever the outcome. Let the democratic will of the majority prevail. Not a single Kenyan life should be lost because of a politician’s ambition on whichever side.
There are many sober proposals in the BBI report and its accompanying draft bills. The proposals hew largely towards the draft of the Committee of Experts that was chopped up at Naivasha by MPs. In my view, most of the proposals are uncontroversial.
They clean up existing kinks or fill in missing links. On this part, it is a cleanup job leftover from Bomas and Naivasha. Elsewhere, some of the proposals are informed by the experience of the last decade. I focus here only on big issues. Here below is what I like.
The wisdom of the provisions to use the mixed-member proportional representation to get to the two-thirds gender rule before 2022 is unarguable. I found the proposal for a 50-50 percent gender split at the Senate very welcome. The proposal to increase budgetary allocations to counties from 15 percent to 35 percent deepens devolution and should be implemented forthwith.
I am OK with the expanded executive to include a PM and two DPMs. I know this proposal has been demagogued, but my belief is that it will relieve post-election contestations among elites and communities. It is disingenuous to dismiss it because in all elections since independence Kenyans have voted along ethnic lines, or as directed by their ethnic kingpins.
We know the disastrous consequences of this pattern of voting. We cannot by mere words wish away reality in the zeitgeist of our people. However, I would provide for checks and balances on the president’s powers to appoint and dismiss the PM.
The president should only be able to dismiss the PM upon the approval of a simple majority of both Houses. I like the strengthening of anti-corruption laws. However, wealth declaration by all public officials, including the president, must occur every two years and be publicly available on a website. All unexplained wealth must be seized subject to only one challenge – without appeal – in the High Court. I like the economic breaks given to the youth.
Constitutional design is always a challenge even with everything we know about constitution-making. The design of 2010 was fundamentally sound but these new proposals will make it more acceptable to the elites and the people.
More importantly, the proposals may give the elite and the people more reasons to submit to it. This can only increase the legitimacy of the constitution and more firmly plant it in the Kenyan soil. It is for these reasons that I endorse the BBI report and its accompanying bills subject to the changes I have indicated.
The late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania used to fondly recite the Swahili proverb “Mgeni siku mbili; siku ya tatu mpe jembe. This means to treat your visitor as a guest for two days and on the third day, give him a hoe (to go till the farm).
Nyerere used the proverb to emphasize self-reliance, or conversely, to discourage hoarders and lazy people from taking advantage of others’ goodwill.
Self-determination means one must go out there and get that which they need and is within reach—or even when out of reach. If it is a job, one must hit the tarmac and find one. If it is a business opportunity, one must go out there and do the necessary to get the business going.
Inherent in one’s self-determination is unwavering courage and sheer will to do what must be done to obtain the desired objective. Comfort is the enemy of courage or sheer will. If one is comfortable in the setting or surrounding they find themselves, then chances are that is where they will remain put, no matter how mediocre.
On the other hand, if one is uncomfortable with their setting or surrounding, there is an incentive to want to do something or to do more to remove themselves from that situation in search of greener pastures.
This is what defines and differentiates the go-getters from the lazy or otherwise the uninspired who never do anything until and unless they are forced to do so.
Occasionally, you do have situations where even though one is a go-getter, they sometimes find themselves gun-shy and unable to act.
An example is an accomplished swimmer who climbs up the ladder to get to the diving platform at the height of competition but gets too nervous out of shear fear of failure. Some simply, breakdown and start crying and that’s the end of their competition.
Deputy President William Ruto is in this predicament. No one can argue that Ruto is not a go-getter. He is and more.
However, he has failed to heed Nyerere’s proverb in that he has not only not overstayed his visit with Jubilee, but he has also refused to take the jembe and till.
To be sure, when Ruto was wooed by Team Uhuru to join them in forming Jubilee to face Raila Odinga in 2013, even he knew he was a guest in someone’s home whose time to leave will come.
This is true notwithstanding the now discarded promise of “kumi-kumi.” Nothing surprising because in politics, promises are just as useless as hot water in a desert.
Ruto himself must have known this because no sooner had he been sworn as Deputy President, he wasted no time in starting to plot his own political course independent of his hosts. Or so he thought.
Although Ruto managed to make some inroads in Central while his boss was indisputably asleep on the wheel after the 2013 elections, this did not last. Ruto’s dual strategy was first to rig in as many MPs as he could in 2017 to have enough numbers in Parliament to do anything he wanted or thwart anything they disagreed on with his boss.
Ruto’s other strategy was to have politicians he deemed a threat to his presidential ambitions either rigged out or otherwise rendered politically impotent.
This was a brilliant strategy, except it has backfired once the sleeping lion woke and is now making his presence felt. Uhuru and his men have politically neutered Ruto so much he’s walking around ballless even though acting as though that is not the case.
It is humiliating and one scratches his or her head wondering why Ruto would continue to suffer this humiliation rather than simply packing and leaving to live to fight another day.
That is what he must do because his two days as guests of Jubilee are over. It is time to go out there and find out what he is made of and if, indeed, he can beat the system as he seems to believe.
Majority of us are deeply disappointed citizens because of the wave of violence witnessed during recent political rallies. One of DP William Ruto’s tactics ahead of 2022 has involved wooing the youth and women to support his presidential bid.
In the name of ‘empowerment’ programmes, he has been giving out wheelbarrows, handcarts, water tanks, sufurias, and of course cash handouts to youth and women groups mainly drawn from informal settlements.
While this may, ignorantly, pass as the good aspect of Ruto’s charm offensive, the bad and ugly sides of the strategy was, perhaps inadvertently, laid bare during the deadly chaos in Murang’a and Kisii. But beat as it may, time and again, young people have been the victims of political violence as perpetrators, and implementers of the violence.
At the heart of the violence were poor young men and women lured from urban slums and ferried to Murang’a. Christopher Kariuki, a 21-year-old father of a three-month-old baby, was enticed to travel to Kenol with an assurance that he would be paid Sh2, 000 to spruce up a hotel in the area ahead of the DP’s visit. The young electrician cum plumber from Thika’s Kiandutu informal settlement would later find himself entangled in political violence he knew little about.
Fifteen-year-old Peter Mbothu, who completed Class Eight last year, also lost his life in similar circumstances. The life of the poor boy from Thika’s Kiang’ombe slums was nipped in the bud.
One of the youths seen in action at Kenol wearing a T-shirt with DP Ruto’s picture is reported to be a known resident of Kibera slums while the young woman who was injured after a vicious attack is reported to be no stranger in in the DP’s campaign circles. The coincidences in the episode were too many to be real.
The buses which were used to ferry the youths, are owned by one a known man in Mount Kenya region. The operators have been summoned to shed light on the incident.
The Kenol chaos have revealed that there is more than meets the eye in the DP’s ‘empowerment’ programmes. The DP has been widely accused of exploiting poverty among Kenyans for selfish political gain using his hustler movement.
The violence gave veracity to the accusations; it had all the hallmarks of militarisation of the youth as a tool to achieve power. But how unfortunate that desperate, if not jobless, youths can be lured with a promise of quick riches, and end up paying for the same with their lives.
The youths must be wiser and resist being used and dumped by politicians who care less about their future. Kariuki’s young family has been left without a breadwinner, and it is unlikely any politician will come to their rescue. This is too painful and high a price to pay; one that can’t be equated with the Sh2,000 the diseased was to receive.
While mourning his son, Mbothu’s father said the politicians who lured the young boy to his death were nowhere to be seen. The politicians’ should tag along their kids – who are busy studying abroad, in plum jobs or dealing lucrative tenders – and put them on the frontline when attending potentially explosive political rallies.
Now that they are buried and forgotten, another bunch of youngsters will be lined up to fight each other, hate each other, and kill each other on behalf of their political masters of course for pennies that can’t last them a day. The politicians should keep off poor Kenyans.
Finally, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report has been made public, setting the stage for constitutional reforms.
On Mashujaa Day, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga declared that the country had entered a constitutional moment. Now is that the moment. Kenyans have a chance to revisit the 2010 Constitution and make changes they so desire.
The BBI report has made proposals for critical changes in the Constitution. Triggering this is the desire to cure historical injustices that have persisted despite several legislative and policy interventions. Inter alia, the changes are aimed at dealing with equity and equality — ending generations of marginalization and creating equal opportunities to enable citizens to exploit and exercise their full potential.
Core to the report is a reconfiguration of the governance structure, deepening devolution, reinforcing national values and ethics, and redefining ways and means of service delivery.
The key highlight of the proposed reforms is reintroducing the position of Prime Minister with two deputies, appointing Cabinet ministers from members of the National Assembly, and bringing back the post of Leader of Official Opposition, a slot to be reserved to the person who emerges second in the presidential election race.
Also, the report proposes the expansion of the Legislature to create more opportunities for women in a bid to secure the elusive gender equality.
In continuing with the spirit of devolution, it proposes higher funding for counties, raising the minimum annual allocation from 15 percent to 35 percent of the latest audited revenue accounts.
For good measure, it proposes a fund forwards, anchored in law, thus seeking to achieve two things: One, push more cash to the grassroots and, two, use the lowest unit of governance as the focal point for development.
Issues being revisited include protection of privacy, under the Bill of Rights. This comes amid concern that widespread technological advancements pose the risk of exposing citizens badly, thus the need for protection of privacy and ensuring transparency in the use of information obtained from them.
Expansion of government
But the focus will largely be on expansion of the governance structure, in both the Executive and Legislature, which comes at a price.
The country is reeling from the high cost of supporting a top-heavy leadership, and piling additional layers is bound to make matters worse. Arguably, that is one of the points of conversation.
The nation has to confront the dilemma of going for a heavily laden public sector with a huge wage bill or retain the status quo and risk the pain of political turmoil that emanates from an exclusionary leadership system.
Some of the legislative agenda is straightforward and have clear justification. For example, a plan to establish a health commission to manage health workers arises from the practical reality of the mess in the medical sector.
The current practice of health workers being managed by county governments has failed and the desire for changing that is inexorable. Counties do not have the capacity to manage these professionals and, whereas health is a devolved function, some of its components are better served by the national government.
The opinion is divided though. There is a counter-argument that some of the envisaged amendments can easily be dealt with under the current conditions and may not even require legislative actions as proposed.
In total, the report seeks amendments to some 14 chapters of the Constitution, out of 18. Some of these have far-reaching implications and will require a referendum while others are slight adjustments that can pass through Parliament.
It is those that require a referendum that is bound to spark heat, and that is where attention is required.
Besides, the BBI Taskforce has prepared 12 Bills that require debate in Parliament to give force to the proposed legal changes. That means there is real work for the august House and, importantly, the challenge of rallying the legislators to a common cause to pass all of them.
As we have repeatedly stated, it is incumbent on the citizenry to take charge and determine their future. It would be disastrous to allow politicians to run with the reform agenda.
The constitution is about the people and for the people. Let Kenyans determine their future by making the right choices about the Constitution.
“You say you want a revolution,” the Beatles sang in 1968 as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was erecting the pillars of nonviolence on the other side of the Atlantic, “Well, you know / We all want to change the world… But when you talk about destruction / Don’t you know that you can count me out… If you want money for people with minds that hate / All I can tell you is brother you have to wait.”
Perhaps such is the curse of our species: Only in violent times do we remember, in our bones and our sinews, that hate is not a weapon of rebellion but of cowardice; that no true revolution is achieved through destruction and nihilism; that the only way to change the world is through constructive and life-affirming action.
Deputy President William Ruto’s biography and political history have neither a principle nor a philosophy on revolution. His politics transcends three regimes — Nyayo (Moi), Kibaki, and Uhuru Kenyatta and at no time has he ever spoken for the poor, whom he is now using as a vehicle to ascend to the House on the Hill.
The three regimes have been characterized by poor governance and Ruto’s silence on this evil communicates nothing but the comfort of individualism, a mark of capitalism, that revolutionaries are devoid of.
Great revolutionaries like Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, Maximilien Robespierre, Rosa Luxemburg, Mahatma Gandhi, and Fidel Castro were greatly influenced by the poverty, oppression, and violence that their communities were subjected to. They sacrificed their lives for the sake of their people.
This is a rare and scarce character in Ruto who purports to revolutionize Kenyan politics for the benefit of the hustler nation. Revolutionaries share unique traits such as selflessness, honesty, they are loving, forgiving, courageous, kind, hardworking, patient, and persevering. I leave it to Kenyans to judge whether Ruto possesses any of these qualities.
The place of birth and status of parents is critical in shaping the thinking of the revolutionary. Great revolutionaries were born either in middle level or poor families. The economic challenges and politics of their time forced them to be considerate of others.
By birth and family, Ruto qualifies but his political privilege alienates him from the suffering of the poor. His access to power since he was young numbers him among the oppressors instead.
Great revolutionaries like Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, Maximilien Robespierre, Rosa Luxemburg, Mahatma Gandhi, and Fidel Castro were greatly influenced by poverty, oppression, and violence that their communities were subjected to. They sacrificed their lives for the sake of their people.
The big question then comes, can Ruto, who is and represents the rich, spur a political revolution with the interest of the poor at the center. My answer would be echoed by many Kenyans — NO.
The greatest essayist of our time, Chakravorty Spivak, questions this kind of relationship in her essay Can the Subaltern Speak? She is astonished that the colonizer (white) can fight for the rights of brown women from brown men.
Ruto’s claim that the time is ripe for the hustlers to govern is a blatant political lie structured to bait the poor. His governance plan remains a mirage and his rich political dogs would probably share government positions in the disguise of being poor.
Ruto’s supporters, especially the political class, consists of dangerous, ravenous, tribalists who are spitting venom because they have been pushed to the periphery by the government they purport to have formed. They lack rational ethos to convince the voters other than the repeated seditious class sentiments that have nothing to do with good governance. By the Marxist stance, Ruto represents the bourgeoisie and he is deceiving the lumpenproletariat for his personal gain.
Ruto’s rebellious tendency emanates from the isolation he finds himself in after his boss extended a hand to Raila Odinga. Let the poor not mistake him for a revolutionary.
Deputy President Dr. William Samoei Ruto Hustler Nation’s narrative undoubtedly took the country by storm with pro-handshake allies seemingly not comfortable with the narrative that has threatened to divide Kenyans along the lines of haves and have not.
Vibrant lawyer Ndegwa Njiru who is known for his sharp political analysis has reacted to the second in command’s hustler nation narrative.
Taking to his Twitter page on Tuesday morning, the lawyer made strong claims that there must be a Communist Party somewhere that is financing the DP’s deadly ideology.
He claimed the DP was now evidently advocating for the adoption of Communism in the country and was ready to implement its 1848 manifesto.
“There must be a COMMUNIST PARTY somewhere that is financing RUTO’S deadly ideology of class struggle. To those who may not be aware, RUTO is advocating for COMMUNISM in Kenya. RUTO is ready to implement the 1848 COMMUNIST manifesto. #caveatemptor” the lawyer tweeted.
Astonishingly, the lawyer is not far from the truth.
Though the term “communism” can refer to specific political parties, at its core, communism is an ideology of economic equality through the elimination of private property.
Communist parties have governed numerous countries, whether as ruling parties in one-party states like the Communist Party of China or the Communist Party of the Soviet Union or as ruling parties in multi-party systems, including majority and minority governments as well as leading or being part of several coalitions.
The beliefs of communism, most famously expressed by Karl Marx, center on the idea that inequality and suffering result from capitalism. Under capitalism, private business people and corporations own all the factories, equipment, and other resources called “the means of production.”
These owners, according to communist doctrine, can then exploit workers, who are forced to sell their labor for wages.
The working class — or “proletariat” — must rise up against the capitalist owners, or “bourgeoisie,” according to the ideals of communism, and institute a new society with no private property, no economic classes, and no profits.
After World War II, the quick spread of communism was perceived as a threat to capitalist countries and led to the Cold War.
At independence, Kanu, whose leadership produced the first government led by President Jomo Kenyatta and Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga collapsed nearly three years later owing to amongst others, personality clashes of the two protagonists due to differing political ideologies, and foreign interference emanating from the then Cold War between communism and capitalism.
Political ideology is based on an economic model of extraction, thus leading to social stratification. While Kenyatta favoured capitalism, Oginga preferred communism
Hustler Vs Dynasty
Deputy President William has fired up his 2022 presidential campaigns around the hustler movement narrative, which is meant to appeal to the majority poor, who are hard workers, looking for any opportunity.
The second-in-command, who has fashioned himself as the leader of the poor majority, is reaching out directly to the people after losing favor with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
But is his story rags to riches story? Ruto has previously come under fire for big money fundraising for churches.
According to 2019 reports released by various ranking institutes, Ruto swings among the richest people in Kenya with a net worth approximation very close to Sh100 billion.
DP’s lieutenants have billed the 2022 Presidential race as a contest between the hustlers and dynasties in which Ruto represents the hustlers, short of saying working masses vs ‘owners’.
However, a big section of Kenyans has argued that the narrative pitying a section of Kenyans (hustlers) against another group (dynasties) was divisive and discriminatory, making it a perfect breeding ground for anarchy.
The Dynasty vs hustler’s narrative is a divisive, corrosive, and dangerous narrative. This is discrimination against another group packaged and fronted by a clique of politicians. A narrative that can spark a war, and civil war in this country if not stopped sooner.
But what was Dr Ruto’s strategy for ascending to the top job?
One, start campaigning early and, using government machinery, stay well ahead of the competition.
Two, whatever happens, keep the Kikuyu and their Mt Kenya cousins in your orbit, and rearview mirror, any time and all the time. At the same time, keep the Coast and Luhya heartlands in your column.
Three, in these places, ensure that the elected representatives, especially the MPs and governors, eat from the palm of your hand. They are the shock troops and point men.
They, like the boss, must be battle-ready early in order to be battle-hardened as the poll date 2022 beckons.
Four, keep the faiths and faithful, and especially the shepherds, close with generous donations of money and materials to their causes. The way to the hearts of the faithful and congregations is through their shepherds and shrines.
Finally, in places of high political consequence, and that means the twin Houses of Parliament, ensure that the shock troops win the decibel count as well as the physical count.
In this new Hustler narrative that DP Ruto with his minions are fashioning, Ruto is being cast as the underdog who, after a long and arduous political journey, is ready to be crowned the “peasant president” or communist leader if you may.